Patient Photo: HSR Improves Outcomes“What do you do?”  Isn’t it funny how such a simple question can have incredibly complicated answers? What do you tell your mother? How do you describe your most recent study at a cocktail party? As health services researchers we spend countless hours searching for the right funding opportunity (or depending on the times, any funding opportunity!), submitting proposals, designing surveys or interview protocols, collecting and analyzing data, presenting our findings and finally writing and submitting articles and preparing final reports. Many of us also teach and mentor the next generation of researchers, provide analysis to our nation’s policymakers, or provide top-notch, quality care for patients. Try wrapping all that into your cocktail party banter. But let’s imagine for a moment that we started answering the question with our impact instead of our tasks or our discipline. What would it do for our field and our own sense of accomplishment if we trained ourselves to lead with the intended outcome of our work? “I find ways to reduce healthcare costs.” Or, “I find ways to improve the quality of care so no one has to go through what Aunt Sally went through.” Our research informs practice, giving health care providers and patients better information to help them determine the best treatment options. Our research informs policy, providing federal and state governments with evidence to inform the debate, shape policy options, make policy choices and then measure and understand the impact of those choices.. Our research changes people’s lives. Whether at a population level or a personal level, the work we do gives decision makers some of the tools they need to change outcomes. While it seems far removed from our days spent staring at a computer screen or participating in meetings, our work has saved lives – by eliminating hospital acquired infections (Pronovost et al, 2006), by helping systems achieve performance high enough that NCQA retires the beta-blocker measure (Lee, 2007), by providing the evidence for when volume does change outcomes – like in trauma or neonatal care (Demetriades et al, 2005; Phibbs et al, 2007). Our work can also lead to cost-savings – hospital acquired infections costs between $28 and $45 billion annually (Scott et al, 2009), unplanned re-hospitalizations cost Medicare $1`7.4 billion (Jencks et al, 2009).  Your research matters. So these are just some examples.  We want to  highlight the many ways health services research and your work has a great impact on health and health care in America, but we need your help! Each year we present the HSR Impact Award to research that has been successfully translated into policy (nominations are due July 29!) but we know that’s only the tip of the impact iceberg, so to speak. We want more. Tell us how you make a difference. Help us tell your story! Help us explain the value of our field! Has your work…

  • Led to a policy change?
  • Been cited by local, state, or federal health programs?
  • Inspired providers to change their practice pattern?
  • Given a new population access to health care services?
  • Informed care decisions for yourself or members of your family?
Share your stories of impact in the comments section. If you’d like to have your work considered for inclusion in future AcademyHealth materials, be sure to include your full name and institution so we can contact you for more information. (Submission in the comments does not constitute an HSR Impact award nomination. Find nomination guidelines here.) Lisa Simpson, MB BCh, MPH, FAAP (view profile) President and CEO AcademyHealth
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